Jovi: 10 Things I Love About Cameroon
Cameroonian rapper & producer Jovi shares the 10 things he loves the most about his home country: including football, Ndolé & TV series.
In our ‘10 Things I Love’ series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country. In this new installment, rapper & producer Jovi—who recently worked with Akon and released his new ‘Bad Music’ EP—shares the the 10 things he loves the most about Cameroon. Hey Jovi, what do you love about Cameroon?
1. The Diversity of the Food.
There’s a lot of different dishes in Cameroon that are very good and can appeal to almost the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.The menu is so large and there’s so many dishes from the country’s different regions—Ndolé, Miyondo, roasted fish, Bobolo, Koki. Fufu, Eru, Sangha, Bongo Chobi, Achu and Kondreh. Each region has a way to cook and has their own primary resources, so each region has their own flavor.
2. Cultural Diversity.
There are a lot of clans, tribes and people that speak different languages in Cameroon. It’s very common to see neighboring villages that speak different languages and don’t understand each other.
You get a lot of cultural inputs into what Cameroon as a nation looks like. For example, my grandfather’s ancestors are from the North (Hausas and Muslim) and my grandmothers’ are from the south (Christian).
Cameroonians usually speak and mix different languages within the language that they’re speaking. It’s kind of schizophrenic, but it’s necessary to communicate by any means if you want the person next to you to understand what you’re saying.
Jovi's "‘Zélé" music video.
Football is very important for Cameroonians, in particular the national team. It’s not really about what’s happening in Europe, there’s another level of excitement when people support the national team. People get emotionally attached and they’ll never accept that we’re beaten.
I think Cameroon has some of the best footballers in the world, including Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o. But I’ve also watched incredible players who’ve never been to Europe. Some of them don’t even make it professionally.
Everybody in Cameroon thinks that they can coach the national team better than the actual coach [laughs]. Everyone on the street has an opinion how to play the players, where to position them. I don’t even play games but I play football on Playstation for Pro Evolution Soccer.
Roger Milla at the 1990 World Cup.
4. TV Series.
What’s the most hilarious thing you’ll ever watch on this planet? A Cameroonian TV series. They talk about society but really make people laugh. When you watch a series, you’re on the floor because it doesn’t make any sense.
Their exclamations are great, things like Chai!, which is like 'damn!' but less of a curse, it’s basically means ‘you went too hard man.' Ékié is like 'surprise.' Like if you’re shocked at something a person says, then the thing that comes out of your mouth is ‘Ékié!’ You can see this in series like Les Déballeurs and its lead role played by Edoudoua.
Cameroon’s been politically stable for over 40 years. There was just one incident in 1993. But the country is pretty peaceful and it has a lot to do with its citizens. I can say there are no signs of xenophobia in this country. That’s what I mean by peace.
We do have instances of Boko Haram in the North but it’s mainly because we share a border with Nigeria and their beef is with the Nigerian government. Think about it, if people or your neighbors are fighting next to you and breaking bottles, you’ll get cut. We’re close to the situation and since people have family on both sides of the border, people get involved.
But Cameroon in general is non-violent with its approach to conflict. Here, you go to jail for just hitting somebody. If you punch somebody and blood is oozing out of their head you’re gonna be in serious trouble.
Akon's "Shine The Light." Produced by Jovi.
6. Freedom of Speech.
Everybody has the freedom to speak and has their opinions. People go off. There are talk shows in this country that talk freely against the government. People can just tune in and hear someone talking shit about how the country is being run.
Some of theses shows, hosted by radio people like Atéba Ayene come with facts and some of them have debates that people can respond to. Some politicians won’t go on a show because they think it’s a trap—the talk shows even sometimes get politicians fired or sent to jail for corruption
7. Cameroonian Jokes & Insults.
There’s a black thing about insults. Black people or black Africans have a way of putting words together that can be hilarious—and this is everywhere in the world. Samuel L Jackson’s probably Cameroonian because every time he expresses himself I’m like ‘this guy looks and expresses himself like guys I hang out with on the regular. I’ve smoked blunts with this guy.’ [laughs]
Cameroonians are capable of making the best jokes. The many cultures and languages in the country create a very rich mixture of how to put things together, even in jokes,. When you’re in a bar trying to have a drink you can hear all kinds of jokes, jokes about love, work, sex, failure. Every Cameroonian is a potential stand-up comedian when he wants to express a situation.
8. The Music.
Because of our multicultural thing, Cameroon is a musical superpower in the world—you know Erykah Badu has Cameroonian roots? We have the best instrumentalists in a single country, which allows me to produce hip-hop music with all live instrumentation. For example my track “Bush Faller,” it sounds like something Justice League would do for Rick Ross. I can make tracks like that for cheaper and with all live musicians playing on the recordings.
Here, you have different types of music, rhythms, dances, stories and ways of perceiving things—the culture is very rich. In Cameroon you have like 50 different genres that are legit and people know. There are a lot of untapped resources and untapped music in Cameroon.
I don’t have a problem being original here because I can look next door and tap into the next genre to sample in my hip-hop tracks. I might end up creating 50 different styles [laughs]. If people ask where I got a rhythm from, I can point to a village where they play it every day.
Also, I can’t count how many musicians from Cameroon have worked with other big musicians. “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango—that’s Cameroon! Michael Jackson used it, Kanye West has rhymed it, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Diddy, J. Lo even used it. Rihanna also used it in “Don’t Stop The Music’. That’s Douala language, those people probably don’t even know what it means.
You know James Brown did an André-Marie Tala song? He gave James brown his demo and James Brown went and redid a song with it in the US. Shakira’s World Cup song “Waka Waka” is a Cameroonian song by the group Zangalewa. She just covered and translated it. It’s the same thing I heard growing up in the 80s.
A lot of Cameroonians were also involved in the building of the French hip-hop industry, the second biggest hip-hop market in the world.
I think that we’re musically superior to Jamaica. We’re just in Africa, that’s all. I’ll prove it with my life if I live long. I’ll prove it. Everything that has happened with my career has happened with me staying here.
9. The Women.
On the real, Cameroonian women are on such a high level of sexiness and they’re the masters of sexual philosophy. We also have sex symbols in our music—artists like Lady Ponce, Reniss, and Mani Bella. We have some that sing and save marriages and others that sing content that’s pretty X-rated.
Reniss' music video for Na You feat. Shey
Cameroonian women have that sex appeal where people stand back and say ‘wow.’ If a Cameroonian girl gives you her number it means she likes you. They’re very pretty. I go to a lot of African countries and I don’t feel like I’m seeing something new, but we have all types of girls. Like our diverse climates and foods, we have all types of girls.
I’ve travelled a little bit around the world and when it comes to hospitality Cameroon stands out. If you speak English or French you don’t have to act like you’re from somewhere else. We say 'good morning' on the street, it’s just the way things are. It’s love.